Most mostly-happy couples can agree that 99 percent of all arguments, frustrations and relationship hardships revolve around where and what you’re going to eat. According to a report in the New York Post, the average American couple spends 132 hours a year deciding what to eat, and “a new survey of 2,000 people in committed relationships shows 37 percent of couples regularly have a hard time agreeing on where to eat and just a few (13 percent) say this isn’t a problem.” The article continues, “The dreaded question ‘What do you want to eat?’ is asked 365 times a year (6.67 times a week for the average couple) — resulting in 2 hours and 32 minutes a week of negotiating on what type of meal to eat.”
And all this assumes that the couple is made up of non-picky eaters. What happens when one half or both halves of the ostensibly happy couple have strict dietary restrictions or worse — say, if one of you refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets?
Simple: You break up. That, at least, is the advice of one redditor who admitted that he stopped dating a girl “because she was a very picky eater.” Several others agreed that picky eating is a major turn-off. “It’s one thing if you’ve tried a ton of different things and don’t like any of them, but in my experience, picky eaters are usually just people who are afraid to try new things, which is a quality I do not like,” responds a different redditor.
At a time when people are basing their entire personalities on a type of food, it’s tough to see how it would be possible for an adventurous eater to accept a life of limited food options in exchange for a chance at love. As Shea Bradford notes in her article for Thrillist, “food matters.” “It’s the cornerstone of life, for crying out loud,” she writes. “In a 4,000-person food and dating survey by Match.com, 66 percent of single folks said picky eaters were a serious turn-off, and 30 percent wouldn’t even consider dating a vegetarian. The study also showed that, if given the ultimatum, two out of every five women surveyed would choose their favorite meal over sex.”
There are, of course, ways to mitigate the issue of dating a picky eater. According to WeddingWire.com, you can do things like “find a restaurant you both love,” “keep surprises off the table” or just skip the focus on food altogether. “If you’re dating a picky eater, find a middle ground by planning a handful of activities that don’t revolve around food,” writes Jenn Sinrich. “This will allow you to focus on other things and enjoy just spending time together.” In other words, you can resolve some of your potential picky-eater landmines by opting for a life of romantic hikes rather than frequent visits to Flavortown.
Marriage and family therapist Allen Wagner offers a more understanding approach to the conundrum. Based on his experience, he says, dietary restrictions are more than understandable, and a common thing with many couples. “Having a partner who understands the importance of your lifestyle choice, or perhaps food allergies, is very important,” says Wagner. “Sometimes couples will have an arrangement where certain foods can be eaten when they aren’t present and that can really help.”
Alternatively, if food allergies aren’t an issue, Wagner suggests that the goal for picky eaters would be to encourage them to branch out. “If this wasn’t a possibility, again, individuals can go with different friends to have different experiences and don’t have to have those experiences with their partner,” he says.
Basically, all of the advice boils down to this: Dating a picky eater isn’t impossible — you just have to live entirely separate lives.